Fashion · Fitting

Getting Started on my Designer Pattern

designer_18Last week I wrote about choosing a designer pattern from Vogue. I was between a beautiful on-trend jumpsuit and a cute pull-on dress with a tie front. The winner is…  the easy one!

Although I love the jumpsuit, I just couldn’t justify making it when I don’t have any events to bring it to.

Also, I find myself drawn to Rebecca Taylor’s style aesthetic. Her collections provide me with a lot of inspiration, featuring prominently in my Fall 2018 mood board on pinterest.

I was reluctant to cut into the silk I chose for the final version (Thanks, Mom!). So, I looked for some lightweight cottons to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin. I have plenty of sundress-worthy cottons in my stash, but it was tricky to find something that would look good from either side. In the end, I went with a sort of washed denim colored solid for the dress and a fun multicolor stripe for the lining.

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Both fabrics frayed like crazy, so I overcast the edges before sewing anything together.

I wanted to make sure that the ties fell at my natural waist, so I spent a more time preparing the pattern than usual. I added my normal long waist adjustment all the way around. The back overlay piece was a little perplexing. When I added the extra length, it completely changed the shape of the ties. I improvised a new curve to smooth it out, keeping the start and end points where they were and crossed my fingers.

I cut the pieces according to the directions with one exception. I thought it would be kind of neat to have the inside back piece be the same as the skirt lining.

Once I got to the sewing machine, I was delighted with how quickly it went together. The neckline and armholes are faced, but use bias binding for the facing instead of the more common facing pieces. I have been experimenting with this technique for a while, and actually prefer it in most cases. However, until you are used to it, it can be maddeningly confusing. If you are doing this dress and have never tried the technique, find an online tutorial and practice a bit first. It may save you a lot of seam ripping! The “very narrow hem” that I was wondering about turned out to be really easy. I like the way it turned out and will use it again on projects with lightweight fabrics. I think that some fabrics might do better with a rolled hem, though. I’ll have to test that out for the final version.

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Very narrow hem (top) and bias-faced armholes

One weird thing about the pattern is that instead of using a conventional casing for the waist elastic, you make a completely inner casing using the seam allowances. Essentially you get a casing “tube” that is only attached to the dress on one side, not both.  It works out, but probably would fail with any elastic wider than 1/4 inch. It doesn’t seem to matter that the casing is kind of free-floating.

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Inside front view shows seam allowance casing

Another technique that was new to me was reinforced stress points. You are supposed to cut small pieces of fabric and sew them to the wrong side of the overlay at each point. I departed from the instructions and chose to fuse my  little patches in place rather than sew them. I think they are probably stronger and they don’t show on the front. I used heat-n-bond lite 5/8″ tape for a quick and easy patch.

I haven’t done a lined skirt in a while, but it was the last step and there wasn’t anything unusual about it. That kind of complacency is probably what led to me putting it in inside-out. Sigh. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m leaving it that way. Shhh…

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Perfect! If you don’t look too close….

The finished dress fits! The ties wound up in the right place and look good. I do think it will look much better in a silkier fabric. The overlay sleeves made with semi-crisp cotton don’t drape elegantly down the shoulders like the ones on the pattern photo. I also think it would be much better with side pockets. But those are minor quibbles. It meets my test for wearability and I have a usable pattern so I’ll call it a success.

The next one in this series will be my first ever silk dress. Wish me luck!

Until then, happy sewing!

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More nuts and bolts…

And a few more pictures from my fashion shoot/dog walk…

Hey – check out my review of Vogue 1395 on patternreview.com here.

Fashion

Rhapsody in Blue: Now with Flutter Sleeves!

rhapsody_2_1Independent pattern company Love Notions sells a pattern for a blouse with a loose, peasant style bodice entitled Rhapsody. I made one a few months ago which turned out a little small. I figured going up one size should fix that problem though.

Rhapsody has 8 different sleeve options: sleeveless, cap, short, 3/4 with cuff, 3/4 with flare, trumpet, flutter, and bishop. This one would be in a teal blue polyester woven with the flutter style sleeve.

Once you know what size you need, it’s pretty quick to make. (Especially if you have the pattern ready to go). Probably the fussiest part is making bias binding for the neck opening and sewing it neatly in place. The first top went quickly because I used pre-made packaged binding. This one was somewhat tricky because the fabric was more slippery, so I had to take my time. I think the matching binding looks pretty sharp in this case.

rhapsody_2_2I’m looking forward to making this one again in some of the other sleeve styles. I can’t wait to show you!

Until then, happy sewing!

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See my review of this blouse on patternreview.com here

Fashion

Sleeveless Rhapsody

Rhapsody-1-8Independent pattern company Love Notions sells a blouse with a loose, peasant style bodice entitled Rhapsody. I love wearing this kind of top in warmer weather and have been looking for a good pattern. What made Rhapsody stand out from the others was their 8 different sleeve options: sleeveless, cap, short, 3/4 with cuff, 3/4 with flare, trumpet, flutter, and bishop. Whew!

Love Notions sells multi-size downloadable PDF patterns. You can print them at home and tape together your printouts, or you can do what I do and send it off to be printed onto large single sheets. (Right now, the best deal seems to be pdfplotting.com). I was delighted by the thorough instructions Love Notions provides as part of the download. In addition to the usual stuff, they include color photos of tricky steps and links to instructional videos.

Rhapsody is designed to be made with lightweight wovens. All of the versions have narrow bias bound necklines, so you also either need purchased or handmade bias tape.

Rhapsody-1-11Since the Marfy short sleeve top didn’t use up all of the pretty cotton lawn fabric, I thought there might be enough to make a Rhapsody. I laid my scraps and pattern pieces on the cutting table to see if I could make it work. I almost had enough to make the sleeveless version, but nothing was wide enough for the single piece back. I changed things around a little so the back was made from two pieces instead and just barely made it all fit.

I did not have enough scrap left to make narrow bias binding, so I found some plain white pre-made in my stash. I think it’s a good idea to keep a few sizes of basic colors on hand just in case. I’ll stock up on black, white, navy and red (those are my basics anyway) whenever I see a bargain.

Rhapsody-1-1Before I put it all together, I thought about how I could embellish it to stand apart from my other top. I played around with all of my scrap trimmings to see what looked good. The curved bottom edge didn’t look right with any trim, but the front came alive with a faux placket. I just sewed two lengths of cotton lace an equal distance from the center front before doing anything else.

Remember those pockets I couldn’t find a use for? I think they look like they are made to go on the Rhapsody.

Again going through my stash, I found a couple of buttons that looked good on the pocket fronts. Initially, I was going to put a row down the placket, but with the ties (or bow) at the neck, it was just one thing too many.

Rhapsody-1-14Assembly included many different techniques. There are french seams, tucks, gathering, narrow hems and bias trimmed neck opening. Even if you have no experience, the instructions should get you through it. Applying binding to a V-neck is a tricky proposition, but I was able to do it perfectly the first time by following their tutorial.

I think it turned out great, albeit a little tight across the back. I scooped out the armholes by about 1/4 inch, which helped. Next time I will try a wider yoke, or possibly go up an entire size. There will definitely be a next time for this one. I really want to try out some of the different sleeves.

Next time: T-Shirts cut on the bias.

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Neckline with Bow
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Neckline open
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French Seams
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Tuck in back

Happy Sewing!

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Pets · Whimsy

Wintertime Doggie Sweater

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Brrrrr! Wake me in April.

Here in New England, cold days are hard to avoid. Lately it seems like my dog has gone into hibernation. She’s a pretty furry girl, so I don’t usually do the dog coat thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Last winter, I practically lived in my favorite wool fair isle turtleneck. But I found out the hard way that the hand wash setting on the washing machine wasn’t exactly the same thing as actual hand washing. While the sweater still looked good, it was way too small to ever wear again.

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Starting point

Upon closer examination, it was still nice and soft, but now it was a little bit felted too. The benefit of felting is that now I didn’t have to be concerned about raveling if I wanted to cut into it.

I thought about what I could do with it. I considered mittens, a hat, or possibly a vest. Then I saw my dog curled so tightly that she looked like a furry throw pillow. She was going to get a sweater!

Here’s how I did it.

First, measure the dog. You’ll need to know circumference around the middle, circumference of the neck, and length from neck to tail.

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Measure the dog. (Yes, her bed is on my desk. Try not to judge).

I made my own pattern based on her measurements. The easiest way to make it would be to just plan on the pattern being the exact shape of the finished coat. Instead of hemming, I would just sew bias tape on the raw edges. Once the pattern was done, I thought about how to best place the design on the sweater. I brought out some wide double-fold bias tape I thought might work. I also went through my box of bag parts for webbing and closures.

When I get rid of worn out backpacks or other bags, I cut off any good d-rings, fasteners, swivel clasps, and anything else I think I might use. They all go in a box for occasions such as this. For the dog coat, I found a side-release buckle and slider. I added a scrap length of 1 in. black cotton webbing that was the right size to fit them.

I tried a few colors of bias tape and settled on the hot pink.

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Once I had all of the supplies together, I cut into the sweater. I removed the sleeves and cut the front from the back. I took off the turtleneck, but left a little of the main sweater attached in case I wanted to use it. As I expected, it didn’t ravel.

While it wouldn’t work out every time, in this case, the turtleneck was just the right size to fit the dog comfortably. So I made that the neck piece.

Once I cut the coat shape, I did a rough fitting.

I pinned the neck and the body together to fit the dog’s proportions. The I sewed them together using a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger.

Next I bound the raw edges with the pink bias tape.

Around this time, I realized that I didn’t have a plan for the raw neck edge at the base of the turtleneck. I didn’t want to use the bias tape because I wanted to maintain its stretchiness. I found some black fold-over elastic (FOE) and used that, even though it wasn’t a perfect match. I didn’t think the dog would mind. Also, it’s practically invisible when she has the coat on.

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I thought the FOE would also be a pretty good solution for making a buttonhole (for a leash attachment point). I zigzagged it into place, then carefully opened a slot in the piece’s middle. If I were to do this over again, I would put some stretchy stabilizer under the buttonhole area before stitching. It’s fine, but it could tear given enough pressure.

The last step was the strap that goes around the dog’s middle. First I put together a test belt using the hardware, webbing and a few pins. After some convincing, I was able to test it on the dog. I snugged it up a bit and brought the pieces to the machine. I chose to sew the entire belt to the underside of the sweater instead of making two smaller pieces attached to the sides. While that would be fine for stable fabrics, I’m sure that the knit would stretch.

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I’m warm!

The finished product is slightly imperfect, but sooo cute – just like my dog!